Saturday, 18 November 2017


Via Inhabitat and as part of Dezeen’s series of good design for a bad world we discover that a Dutch engineer has created a prototype lamp that works symbiotically with a living plant to produce light as a by-product of natural cycle of photosynthesis.
Microbes in the soil of this terrarium breakdown the organic compounds that are the surplus catalysts of plant’s nourishing itself and the lamp harnesses a part of that bacterial fuel cell to power a meagre glow. Such technology does not just yield a novel night-light but rather is infinitely scalable and entire cities could derive a significant portion of their energy from adjacent woods—making the notion of re-forestation not only seem more valuable—as it was prior to the Industrial Revolution as a source of quarry, fuel and building material, but as an absolute mandate, delivering as a bonus all the benefits of having more wooded areas and home to all the species that they shelter. Fields growing food crops could also be conscripted into double duty, providing electricity in a sustainable manner as well as feeding a given population.

Friday, 17 November 2017

büsi kitty

We’re grateful to Dangerous Minds to introducing us to award-winning artistic collaborations of the Swiss duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss († 2012) by way of their non sequitir hijacking of the Times Square Astrovision screen in 2001 and having it display instead of the usual advertisements and news-crawl a footage of a very sedate cat lapping up milk from a dish—for six and a half minutes.
February of 2016 saw an abbreviated revival with the video—in a sense the original cat video though there are of course antecedents,with a three minute version gracing some sixty screens at once at given intervals. The artists are arguably best-known for their Rube Goldberg-like chain of mechanical causality cinematic deconstructionist performance piece called The Way Things Go (Der Lauf der Dinge), whose usque ad aras telescoping enjoys some physical avatars as permanent exhibits, including one in the Wiesbaden Museum that I will have to examine again with newly found appreciation.

globus cruciger

The curators over at Hyperallergic take a closer look at the rather controversial, record-setting auction of a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and its buyer—unnamed but surely a member of that exclusive set of the highest percentile of wealthy oligarchs—who through the acquisition and trade of such treasure exert pressure on both geopolitics and the art world by inflating the price of such works beyond the endowment of any museum.
Indeed, the provenance of Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World, a theme in Christian iconography) is uncertain and the attribution to Leonardo is recent and based on only on some signature pentimenti and is perhaps at best a piece from the master’s studio with a touch of his instruction. If the identity of the seller, a Russian billionaire potash-magnate and philanthropist, sounds familiar to anyone, it could be over a real-estate transaction with Donald Trump and a long-standing reputation of using art to shield his monetary wealth from others. Outside of the cost-range of the world’s museums, the painting is probably destined to return to the cavernous bowels of the freeport from whence it briefly emerged until next time it’s swapped among the plutocracy.

shirley temple or taste/ip

Via the always discerning Nag on the Lake, we are introduced to a clever gadget—a virtual cocktail glass—that uses a combination of lights, wafting aromas and most importantly a mild electric stimulation to the tongue and taste buds to convince us we are experiencing flavours that aren’t really there. What do you think? This gustatory hallucination apparently can transform a glass of plain water into a fine scotch, and I suppose as the technique becomes more refined and shared widely, it will be able to recreate the most subtle notes and expressions for those who cannot or should not partake of adult-beverages and seems like a better substitute than having a mocktail.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

morning constitutional

Betraying an a mild arithmomanic tendency by finding and enshrining the number twelve in human humours and anatomy, we enjoyed the introduction to one Doctor Alesha Sivartha (the pen name most probably of a Kansas country physician Arthur E Merton) and his graphically striking if not of great literary or scientific merit—as so many books on theosophy with contrasting or complementary theories were being published in the same era—Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man.
The charts and diagrams certainly do espouse the convoluted heraldry of palmistry and phrenology (click to enlarge) more effectively than most other, wordy treaties on similar topics and offer an enticement for further study. Despite the profusion of such works and some outmoded notions that really date the good doctor, there’s a systematic approach to be found and an enduring legacy attached to it—maintained by one of Merton’s decedents, which can be found at the source link above.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

reporters without borders

The PEN International foundation—the acronym originally standing for Poets, Essayists and Novelists, which I never realised, sort of like TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design)—has since 1981 designated this day as a time to honour and support writers who speak for those silenced, fight against oppression and for the freedom of expression, often to their peril. Such gadflies, imprisoned or censored, have been supported by the organisation since the 1960s with special committees formed to advocate on behalf of inconvenient dissenters, but the Day of the Imprisoned Writer was established to show solidarity and to showcase the profiles of courageous individuals that speak up.  The day has now also come to commemorate all the journalists killed in the line of duty between this November and last November.